If you’ve ever wondered about the various names that Shanghai has, you can check out this blog entry (in Chinese), which gives brief historical explanations of each. Here’s an abridged translation/summary of some of those names:
- Shanghai. The name of the city can be traced back to 1265, the Song dynasty. Back then, what is now called the Suzhou River had two small tributaries, one was called 上海浦 （shanghai pu) and the other was called 下海浦 （xiahai pu). The town being constructed was near the Shanghai Pu, hence the name.
- 沪 (hu4). If you’ve ever taken a look at Shanghai license plates, you’ve seen this character. It’s commonly used to refer to Shanghai in the news as well. A hu was a kind of fishing tool commonly used in the area. It was made of bamboo, and you stuck it in the river during high tide, and when low tide came around you had a hu load of fish!
- 申 (shen1). This name is still in use today, as Shanghai is sometimes referred to as 申城 (shen cheng), and in the Shanghai football team Shenhua (申花). Shen is from the name of a Warring States period aristocrat whose “nickname” was 春申君 (chun shen jun). Back then, the Huang Pu River often flooded because of the high riverbed and silting, and this guy took it upon himself to fix things up, building waterways and dikes to alleviate the problem. The Huang Pu was renamed the 申江 (shen jiang), and soon shen stood for Shanghai.
- There are plenty more in that post, but we’ll finish with the history of an area—Xujiahui (徐家汇). Xu Guangqi (徐光启）was a Ming dynasty polymath that made important contributions in fields ranging from astronomy to agriculture. He also predicted that populations would double every 30 years, supposedly beating Thomas Malthus to the punch (population doubles every 25 years) by about 200 years. After Xu died in Beijing, he was buried in Shanghai. His descendants, the Xu family (徐家) began living in the surrounding area, which is where three small rivers or creeks converged (汇, pronounced hui4, means converge). And thus the area became known as Xujiahui.
- Shangers—the blog entry doesn’t explain this one; we’re throwing this out to the readers. We’ve heard it a few times, not sure where it came from, but we’re pretty sure no self-respecting American would ever say it.
The picture you see with this post is from the photo blog Shanghai Daily Photo was just taken on Feb. 10, 2007 (yesterday). If you look closely on the bottom right you can see a brown sign for Guangqi Park (光启公园).
Photo from Shanghai Daily Photo